Hopi Tribe, Arizona lawmakers ask feds for help in stopping French auction of sacred objects

Leigh Kuwanwisiwma, right, director of the Hopi Tribe's Cultural Preservation Office, answers a question during a news conference on the Paris auctions selling Hopi sacred objects as Hopi Chief Ranger Ronald Honyumptewa looks on Wednesday, May 27, 2015 at the Heard Museum in Phoenix. Hopi tribal leaders and Arizona’s members of Congress are asking U.S. law enforcement to stop the sale of about a dozen sacred Hopi artifacts at a Paris auction house in June. (Mark Henle/The Arizona Republic via AP) MARICOPA COUNTY OUT; MAGS OUT; NO SALES; MANDATORY CREDIT

Leigh Kuwanwisiwma, right, director of the Hopi Tribe’s Cultural Preservation Office, answers a question during a news conference on the Paris auctions selling Hopi sacred objects as Hopi Chief Ranger Ronald Honyumptewa looks on Wednesday, May 27, 2015 at the Heard Museum in Phoenix. Hopi tribal leaders and Arizona’s members of Congress are asking U.S. law enforcement to stop the sale of about a dozen sacred Hopi artifacts at a Paris auction house in June. (Mark Henle/The Arizona Republic via AP) MARICOPA COUNTY OUT; MAGS OUT; NO SALES; MANDATORY CREDIT

By Ryan Van Velzer, The Associated Press

PHOENIX — Hopi tribal leaders and Arizona’s members of Congress are asking U.S. law enforcement to stop the sale of about a dozen sacred Hopi artifacts at a Paris auction house in June.

The Hopi Tribe contends the auction house is illegally selling the spiritual objects, known as Katsina Friends, and is urging U.S. Department of Justice and the FBI to help recover them. The items resemble masks and are used during religious ceremonies and dances to invoke ancestral spirits. They are communally owned, rarely displayed and never supposed to leave the reservation.

This is the sixth time the French auction house, Estimations Ventes aux Encheres, has sold objects sacred to Native American tribes. It has argued that the items legally belong to collectors, and a Paris court has ruled that such sales are legal.

Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., joined Hopi Chairman Herman Honanie on Wednesday to speak about the difficulties the Hopi Tribe has had in repatriating the sacred objects.

“It is appalling that a French auction house believes it’s acceptable to profit off the sale of the sacred Katsina Friends,” Gosar said.

Arizona’s congressional delegation sent a letter last week asking the Justice Department and the FBI to take immediate action to prevent the items from going to auction June 1 and June 10. The U.S. government has no legal authority to stop the auctions, but Gosar said treaties with France could allow the U.S. to put pressure on the French government to act.

The Hopi Tribe has tried to prevent the sale of the objects since 2013. The tribe has sued three times in French court, but judges have dismissed the lawsuits because France lacks laws to protect indigenous people, unlike the U.S.

The Hopi Tribe views selling the items as sacrilegious and offensive, Honanie said.

“This is a big affront to the Hopi people,” he said. “We must do everything that we can to stop these auctions.”

In April 2013, a Paris court cleared the way for the sale of about 70 masks for some $1.2 million, despite protests and criticism from the U.S. government.

In December of that year, the Annenberg Foundation, a family-run charity, bought more than 20 Hopi and Apache items and returned them to their tribal homes.

The Hopi Tribe has filed two appeals with a French governmental agency regulating auctions, but the auctions of the items are set to take place before the appeals will be heard, said Pierre Ciric, an attorney representing the Hopi Tribe.

“So we are basically chaining up these cases to build a more favorable route on appeal,” Ciric said.

Senate confirms first Native woman federal judge

by The Associated Press

Hopi citizen Diane Humetewa

Hopi citizen Diane Humetewa

PHOENIX (AP) – A former U.S. Attorney from Arizona will be the first Native American woman to serve on the federal bench.

Hopi citizen Diane Humetewa easily won confirmation on May 14 in the U.S. Senate in a 96-0 vote. The four senators who didn’t vote were Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), Christopher Coons (D-Del.) and Jack Reed (D-R.I.)

She will fill one of six vacancies in the federal District Court of Arizona.

Humetewa currently serves as special counsel at Arizona State University, where she is also a professor.

She served as U.S. Attorney for Arizona between 2007 and 2009.

She also was an appellate court judge for the Hopi Tribe.

The National Congress of American Indians praised the confirmation, saying Humetewa has dedicated her time to serving the interests of Native peoples.

“The National Congress of American Indians congratulates Diane J. Humetewa of the Hopi Indian Tribe on her confirmation as federal judge in the U.S. District Court of Arizona. As the newest member of the federal bench, she is the first Native American woman ever appointed to serve in that position,” a NCAI press release states. “The Honorable Humetewa is impeccably qualified for her new role. She has practiced law in federal courts for over a decade – as Special Assistant U.S. Attorney, as Assistant U.S. Attorney, and as the U.S. Attorney for Arizona – and is experienced in a wide array of complex proceedings, hearings, and cases. Further, Judge Humetewa has dedicated time to serving the interests of Native peoples. She has been the Appellate Court judge for the Hopi Tribe, counsel to the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, and special advisor to the President on American Indian Affairs at Arizona State University. NCAI greatly appreciates the efforts of the President and Senate in achieving this historic confirmation. There are many qualified, talented people like Diane Humetewa in Indian Country who are able and willing to serve. We eagerly anticipate many more nominations of Native people to the federal bench and other offices.”

The overburdened District Court of Arizona remains one of the busiest in the country, having declared a judicial emergency in 2011

Hopi Tribe loses bid to stop auction of sacred property in France

Source: Indianz.com

The Hopi Tribe of Arizona lost a bid to stop the auction of sacred property in France.

The Drouot auction house sold 32 masks today, the Associated Press reported, after a judge approved the sale. One item went for $136,000, the AP said.

The U.S. Embassy in Paris asked the auction house to delay the sale. The collection also included items from the San Carlos Apache Tribe and Zuni Pueblo.

 

Get the Story:
Auction House Ignores US Plea to Delay Hopi Sale (AP 12/9)
US attempts to halt Paris auction of sacred Native American artefacts (The Guardian 12/8)
French Court Allows Auction of Hopi Artifacts to Proceed (The New York Times 12/6)

 

Related Stories:
Hopi Tribe files suit to block auction of sacred property in France (12/3)

Arizona tribe claims bank mismanaged investments

By FELICIA FONSECA Associated Press
Posted:   05/23/2013 02:58:25 PM MDT

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz.—The Hopi Tribe of northern Arizona claims that advisers at a national financial services institute schemed to cheat the tribe out of tens of millions of dollars by lying about the value of tribal accounts, making risky investments and collecting fees to which they weren’t entitled.

The tribe has filed more than two dozen claims against Wachovia and some of its former financial advisers with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority. It is seeking nearly $190 million in penalties and damages through arbitration that is expected to take more than a year to run its course.

“This is not a case involving a disagreement about a few investments,” tribal attorneys wrote in a statement of claims. “This is the limiting case of greed by a national bank and its agents, which despite their status as fiduciaries, created a risky, dangerous portfolio in which almost all investment assets in the portfolio violated Hopi investment guidelines.”

A spokesman for Wells Fargo & Co, which acquired Wachovia in 2008, said Thursday that the bank will present its side during an arbitration hearing.

The Hopi Tribal Council approved opening a $10 million line of credit at Wachovia in September 2007, which tribal attorneys claim the financial advisers used as a lure to gain access to then-tribal treasurer Russell Mockta and the Hopi assets. Even before the resolution was passed, the advisers worked with Mockta to transfer $2.5 million into a Wachovia account without the council’s approval and made non-permitted and unnecessary investments.

Tribal Chairman Le Roy Shingoitewa said that Wachovia had authority only to make low-risk investments that would guarantee a steady income to finance capital improvements on tribal lands, like a hotel and restaurant in Moenkopi. Instead, the tribe alleges that former Wachovia advisers opened a margin account and quickly purchased high-risk investments, including hedge funds that were barred by tribal policy. By October 2007, more than half of the Hopi’s portfolio had been moved out of fixed income investments, the tribe claims.

Mockta, who was removed from office over what the tribe said was significant financial losses during his tenure, did not return a call for comment Thursday. Tribal attorney Norberto Cisneros said the tribe doesn’t believe that Mockta or other tribal officials knew of the alleged scheme at the time.

Among other claims is that the Wachovia advisers lied to Hopi officials in monthly statements and performance reviews—at times sent from personal e-mail addresses—by overstating the value of the tribe’s assets to keep the Hopis as a client, and overcharged for advisory services on tribal accounts that weren’t subject to management fees. One of the investments was structured so that losses were locked in from the date of purchase regardless of how the financial market performed, the tribe alleges.

Some of the investments related to bonds known as collateralized debt obligations, or CDOs. The value of the CDOs plummeted after the housing market peaked in 2007, sparking panic that caused the global credit system to seize up.

During that period, Wachovia charged other clients, including the Zuni Tribe of New Mexico, 70 percent more for CDO investments than the bank believed they were worth, the Securities and Exchange Commission has said. Wells Fargo settled a case in 2011 that claimed Wachovia Capital Markets LLC misled investors to sell the mortgage bonds to the Zuni Tribe without admitting to or denying the allegations.

Cisneros said that regardless of how the financial market behaved at the time, the Hopi Tribe should not have lost its money.

“These are investments the tribe never should have been in to begin with, particularly in a volatile market,” he said. “Even when they did good investments for the tribe, they took the money from the tribe by marking them up.”

Cisneros said the Hopi Tribe realized its losses within the past six to nine months after thoroughly examining its investments. The Wachovia accounts now are with Raymond James & Associates, but they’re no longer in the hands of the advisers who went to work for Raymond James after Wells Fargo acquired Wachovia, Cisneros said.

 

Source: CurrentArgus